The islet of Gramvousa sits off the northwest tip of Crete on the large peninsula that runs northwards from Kastelli Kissamos.
Gramvousa is one of the most spectacular sights on Crete. Two rocky islets sit in a shallow sea linked to Crete by a sandbank.
The islet to the north of the promontory is Agriogramvoussa, south of it and slightly west is Imeriagramvoussa – the prefixes mean wild and tame respectively.
The Venetians built a fort on Gramvousa in 1582 but it was destroyed when lightning struck a gunpowder store. It was rebuilt in 1630.
Just opposite Gramvousa is the splendid beach of Balos. It can be reached fairly easily along an unsurfaced road, then along a track down to the beach.
The sea here is a virtual lagoon; very shallow and extraordinarily blue. Its growing popularity means that more tourists dump their rubbish here each season.
Balos beach is a shelf of fine white sand that lies between a couple of small streams. The white sand gives the shallow sea an emerald glow that is unique to the area.
There is good hiking to be had over the whole peninsula which is covered in thyme, oregano and wildflowers.
A surcharge has now been imposed on visitors, either through a road toll or a surcharge on boat trip tickets, to help pay towards keeping Balos beach clean.